Johnny James was the most popular boy in my school, he was in the year above me and was as cool as fuck. He looked like a 15 year old John Travolta (in his Danny from Grease days) and all the girls adored him. Boys did too. Everyone wanted to be in Johnny’s crowd. Johnny came from a very rich family, there were rumours that his Mum was a madam who provided prostitutes to the big fashion houses. Johnny wore designer clothes to school every day. I couldn’t give a shit about designers now, but back then owning a pair of off key Moschino stretch jeans was a seriously big deal. Johnny wore a purple crushed velvet Versace suit to egg and flour day (a day at the end of term where everyone throws eggs and flour at each other, I really don’t know why), that’s the kind of rich prick he was. Johnny had an on off relationship with the most popular girl in the school, a slim, blonde gorgeous girl who I used to wish I looked like. I was still in my chubby ginger elephant phase when I started secondary school and I had no interest from boys at all until year 9 when suddenly an extremely large pair of boobs appeared on my chest and all hell broke loose.
I was such an innocent little geek until that point. I recently found a diary entry from my first year at school which says ‘Words that I am feeling today, confused, worried, scattered. Melanie and Scotty have asked me to do spliff. I don’t know what to do because it would be so stupid to do it but I will be so left out if I don’t, so I have told my mum.’ How times changed. After my breasts appeared I lost a little weight and gained some confidence. I started hanging out with a wilder crowd. I had a ‘crew’. There were 10 of us and we called ourselves The T Birds because we used to drink Super Tennants (yes, the vile cider that only homeless alcoholics drink) in the park. We smoked Benson and Hedges, wore gold sovereign rings and huge gold creole earrings; we scraped our hair back and wore excessive amounts of black eye liner. Our standard uniform was stretch jeans, Benetton jumpers or knock off Ralph Lauren polo t-shirts, Naf Naf jackets and Reebok Classics. We were basically chavvy, wannabe rude girls. I am so glad that social media was not a thing back then because now, apart from a couple of faded pics, there is no evidence of that tragic era in my life.
One of my fellow T Birds was a girl called Ruby. She lived on the same road as Johnny, about 15 doors up. Johnny used to get a cab to her house from his. We thought this was majorly cool. The first time he came round to Ruby’s when I was there I could barely speak. He was just so amazing. I used to spend hours practicing my signature with James as my surname. I named my Hamster after him, JJ, and I even carved his initials into my hand with a compass. These all seemed like perfectly rational things to do at 14 for a boy who had hardly spoken to me. Teenagers are mental. One day we were both at Ruby’s, everyone had put a pound in so we could buy a ten pound weed draw, there were ten of us and we wanted to get stoned, a gram of home grown was enough to do it back then. The rest of the gang went off to meet the dealer. There were no mobile phones in 1996, some of us had pagers but the dealer didn’t, so I was told to stay at Ruby’s in case there were any problems and the dealer had to call the house phone. Johnny said he wanted to stay too. You can imagine the absolute elation I felt at that moment. It wasn’t long before we were kissing and dry humping on Ruby’s sofa. This was as close as I had ever come to a boy and I was absolutely thrilled. I really thought I was in love.
Later that night, around 11pm, my landline started ringing. It was Johnny, he’d got my number from Ruby. He told me to come round to his. I told him it was too late, my Mum was asleep and wouldn’t let me out ‘Ah man, I didn’t think you were like that Layla, that’s why I like you, because you don’t follow the rules, but obviously you are not who I thought you were.’ It didn’t take long for him to convince me. I was desperate for him not to stop liking me so I snuck out of my house at 11.30pm and walked the 1.6 miles to his house. On my own. Aged 14. Almost as soon as I got there Johnny told me to take my clothes off. I didn’t want to. I was hugely embarrassed by my body, my oversized breasts that I thought were saggy, my pot belly, and big bum (they were not in fashion back then), I despised myself and there was no way I wanted to let the boy that I ‘loved’ see me naked. Johnny got angry. He accused me of wasting his time. He told me again that he thought I was different but now I was showing him that I was the same, just a childish girl who was all talk and no action. I hadn’t remembered talking anything up but I didn’t want to make him any angrier than he already was by saying that.
He told me that it was late and that if I was going to keep acting like an arsehole then I should just go. I didn’t want him to stop wanting me and so I told him that I would take my clothes off under the covers if he turned the lights off. He agreed. I lay there feeling cold and vulnerable. He took his clothes off and lay on top of me, we kissed for a bit and he touched my breasts. I felt self-conscious and disgusting. I could feel his erection between my legs, he was pushing against my vagina and I knew that he wanted to have sex. Some of my friends had already started doing it and I wanted to be part of that group. I should have had standards, I should have wanted my first time to be special, romantic, gentle, I should have wanted to make love, I should have wanted it to be with a boy who loved me, I should have had a Father who taught me all of that, but I didn’t. Being able to say I lost my virginity to Johnny James was enough for me.
Johnny pushed his dick against my vagina several times, it hurt. I wasn’t wet or turned on in anyway so this wasn’t going to happen easily. He eventually managed to ram it into me and I cried out in pain. He forcefully put his hand over my mouth and told me to shut up. The pain was unimaginable. He pumped on top of me for about a minute before ejaculating, it felt gross. I was grateful for it to be over even though it hadn’t lasted long. He rolled off me and lay there in silence. I tried to cuddle him but he pushed me away. I got dressed as quickly as possible. My vagina was hurting. I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to have sex. It was awful. He switched the lights on and told me I had to leave. As he saw me out the front door he said ‘If anyone ever finds out about this you are fucking dead’ he ran his finger across my throat and slammed the door. I walked home alone in tears. I had lost my virginity and I couldn’t even tell my friends.
After that I became Johnny’s sex toy. He would demand to come over or for me to come to his whenever he felt like it, and I would do it, every time. I was getting absolutely no pleasure from having sex with him, in fact it hurt and I hated it, but I ‘loved’ him and I felt validated by him wanting me. He was the most popular boy in the school after all. I felt like the fact that he wanted me made me somebody. I told all my friend’s eventually and my popularity definitely increased. I would regale them with tales about my advanced level sex life with Johnny when the reality was that I’d never even felt one iota of pleasure during any of the times I’d been with him. This went on for 2 years, he put me through some fucked up stuff but there was no chance that I was going to end it.
One night he called me when a friend of the family was staying over in my room. It was the middle of the night and he told me that he was at his friend’s on my road and that he was going to be outside in 30 seconds. I told him that I couldn’t come out which prompted him to tell me that he would put a brick through my window if I wasn’t outside within 2 minutes. I made it out in 1. When I got outside he slammed me against a car bonnet and held me there by my throat, my head smashed loudly against the metal of the car ‘Next time I tell you to come out don’t fucking argue with me ok?’ He let me go and walked on ahead of me, I was frightened so I started to go in the direction of my house, Johnny shouted at me to come back, he told me that he didn’t give a fuck about me and that he would never speak to me again if I didn’t follow him to his house, I didn’t want to lose him, so I turned and went.
On our journey back to his my head and neck were still hurting from where he had slammed me against the car. I told him so and told him to apologise or I wouldn’t fuck him. He stopped and looked at me and laughed, and then he grabbed my hair with both hands and dragged me down an alleyway. I screamed but it was pointless, we were off the streets and it was 2am, there was nobody around. He pushed me on to the gravelly floor, the back of my head banged so hard so hard on the pavement that it bled. He stood over me with his foot pressed hard into my stomach ‘You probably can’t even feel that, you fat bitch.’ He unzipped his jeans and forced himself on top of me, it was easy, it was summer and I was wearing a dress, he pretty much ripped it off. With his hand on my throat he fucked me, every movement hurt, I could feel the gravel underneath me scratching my back and shoulders to pieces. He took longer than normal to cum, maybe he felt guilty I thought. I was silently crying the whole time, tears rolling on to my neck. When he stood up he spat on me and walked off. I was alone, aged 15 in an alleyway at 2am and I had just been raped. I didn’t figure that out at the time, but I had. The walk home was horrendous. I was still bleeding from the back of my head and my dress was badly ripped. I went to the bathroom as soon as I got in and I realised that I was badly bleeding on my back and my throat was starting to look bruised. I cleaned myself up and got into bed. I went off to school the next morning in a roll neck top which I wore every day until the bruising faded. I didn’t tell a soul.
It wasn’t the first time he had subjected me to a terrifying ordeal. A few months before that a few of us had been in the park near my house with Johnny and his friend Ryder. It got late and the rest of the girls left but of course I didn’t want to because Johnny was there. The three of us smoked a spliff and chatted away. The boys both started saying how fit I was and how I had great tits. I kind of loved it, it felt like a compliment, until Ryder tried to touch my boobs. I pushed him away and looked at Johnny to say something. He didn’t. In fact he started touching me and trying to pull my top down to show Ryder my tits, I didn’t want to make him angry but I really didn’t want this. They were taking the piss out of me, laughing together and both trying to touch my boobs at different times so I was smacking both their hands away and getting upset. I stood up to leave and Ryder said ‘You ain’t leaving.’ Johnny pulled me back down and said that I had been teasing them both, and that I shouldn’t have stayed alone in the park if I didn’t want something to happen. I told Johnny that I wasn’t interested in Ryder and that I did not want anything to happen. Ryder punched me in the side of my head hard, I jerked to one side and they both laughed. Johnny grabbed my throat with his hand and pushed me to the ground. He then got up and sat on my chest, I was struggling to breathe and I couldn’t talk. I was trying to hit him but he grabbed both my hands tightly. He told Ryder to do whatever he wanted. And he did. I could feel my knickers being ripped off, I was trying to kick out but every time I did Ryder would punch me in my stomach or my vagina. Ryder was ugly and trampy and now he had his dirty long fingernails scratching at my genitals. I couldn’t believe that Johnny was letting his friend touch me. For some unknown reason I thought I meant more to him than that. I don’t know how long this all went on for but when it finally finished I was devastated. Ryder didn’t put his penis in me but this time I knew I had been raped. I went to school the next morning and my best friend pulled a clump of grass from my hair and said ‘What the hell have you been doing?’ I didn’t tell her, I didn’t tell anyone, I was too ashamed.
Eventually, after about 2 years, the Universe intervened and Johnny ended up getting sent to a young offenders institute for Burglary, Johnny and his friend (the son of one of the world’s most famous men who was significantly richer than Johnny) had decided to burgle a load of houses, they didn’t need the money, they were just fucked up thrill seeking rich boys. I think I wrote to him once but I never got a reply. After a while life moved on and I got over him. I still question whether I’ve ever really got over that horrible introduction to sex and relationships, but I definitely got over Johnny. I didn’t see him again until 2014. A guy from my year at school had tragically died. His funeral was like a school reunion. Everybody attended the reception and it was crazy to see so many old faces, I had tried to distance myself from people after leaving school. I wanted to start afresh. Ruby was there. We hadn’t seen each other for years, she had gone on to get married at 18 to a much older man who was now an overweight alcoholic, they had a son and a set of twin girls and Ruby had become one of those Mothers who constantly posts annoying Facebook updates like:
‘Laundry done, house cleaned, roast in the oven, kids in bed, think it’s time to treat myself to a choccie biccie and a cheeky glass of Pinot – what am I like lol xx’
This funeral appeared to be her first social outing in many years and Ruby was clearly going to make the most of it. She was knocking back the Pinot’s from pretty early (what is she like hey). It was lovely to see her, we had lots to talk about, but she was way too over excited to be out and child free and she was driving me slightly mad. My close friend Bella was there with her husband Scotty and when the wake finished they suggested going on to the local for more. A big crowd of old school faces tagged along and more appeared once we were at the pub. Including Johnny. Johnny did not look like Danny from Grease anymore, Johnny looked like Gollum from Lord of The Rings. Johnny was skinny and he obviously hadn’t had a growth spurt since 1996. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and denim shorts. He looked fucked. Bella knew about our history and she held my hand as he walked towards us. ‘Well, well, now who do we have here then?’ he sounded like Jimmy Saville as he looked me up and down. He asked me how I was and what I had been up to (I hate it when people I haven’t seen for 15 years ask me what I’ve been up to, I’ve literally done thousands of things, I cannot answer that question) I told him I was working and had a son, he asked if I was with my son’s Father and I told him no, he replied ‘I could have guessed that’s where you’d end up.’ It was like a punch to the gut and I felt crippled with rage.
‘Actually Johnny, I have a first class honours degree, I’ve got a good job, I have a wonderful relationship with my son’s Father and I have a very good life, and that is all despite what you put me through. You’re lucky I’m even talking to you right now, you don’t deserve a breath out of my body.’
I wish I had just ignored him because I was not ready for the shit that he was about to reveal.
‘I’m sorry Layla, I really am. I was a little shit back then, but you know what, my life is fucked now, proper fucked babe. I got raped in prison, like proper raped in my arsehole, loads of times and it’s fucked me up’
Me and Bella looked at each other, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Johnny was sort of twitching and moving from foot to foot as he continued to give us a graphic account of the horrors he had suffered in HMP Feltham. Bella said ‘Wow, that’s fucked up Johnny.’ I wanted to laugh, I actually wanted to laugh in his face and say GOOD. Karma is a Mother loving bitch my friend. I didn’t say anything, I just agreed with Bella and dragged her away so that we could discuss Johnny’s confessions. Johnny was a deeply damaged man. You could tell just by looking at him that drug abuse had definitely been a big part of his life and that it possibly still was. He looked like he lived in a St Mungo’s hostel. I felt sorry for him. I actually felt heartbroken for him, the joy that I had felt when he told me he had been raped in prison quickly subsided. He went to prison when he was 16. He deserved to go to prison but he didn’t deserve to be raped by other boys when he was just a boy himself. Nobody deserves that. It had damaged him for life. Johnny had had the potential to be so much and it was a tragedy that he had turned out the way he had.
A friend from school Alex approached me and Bella after he’d seen us talking to Johnny. ‘He’s finished isn’t he’ he said. Alex and Johnny had been close friends at school, they still were but Alex was trying to distance himself from Johnny as they’d recently had a night out raving that had gone badly wrong. They had bought two girls back to Alex’s flat and they were all having a cocaine fuelled after party when one of the girls came running out of the kitchen screaming because Johnny had been in there taking a shit on the floor. This is the man I wanted to marry. You can still see his initials on my hand if I’m tanned enough. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man so much when I was 14 that I would have probably sold my own Nan. And now look at him. What a lucky escape I had. I felt truly grateful that I hadn’t ended up being his baby mother. I also felt truly grateful that the abuse that I had suffered from him had not damaged me in the way that his abusers had damaged him. I felt strong as fuck. My life is awesome and I’m happy, I was lucky. It could have gone very differently.
The night ended in the most dramatic way possible, but it’s been a long blog so I’ll try to make it short. A load of us had ended up at Johnny’s place after the pub (I say Johnny’s place but it was actually his baby Mother’s Husband’s Mum’s house – she had gone to prison and Johnny was looking after the place – welcome to the stage Mr Jeremy Kyle…..) The place was disgusting. A huge black damp patch up the back of the kitchen wall. Bella and I were freaking out but Bella’s husband Scotty was catching up with the boys and wanted to stay so we couldn’t leave. Ruby was 3 bottles down by this point and she started twerking in the front room. Johnny had disappeared for a while and when he returned he looked like he was off to do the Tour De France, for some crackhead reason he had changed into full cycling gear, helmet and all. The whole thing was just bonkers. Bella and I managed to persuade Scotty to leave. Most people had left by that point and there was only Ruby, Alex, Johnny and two other guys from school George and Ricky. We tried to get Ruby to leave with us but she was having the time of her life so she stayed. The next afternoon there were messages all over Facebook from Ruby’s husband asking if anyone knew of her whereabouts, she hadn’t gone home and her phone was switched off. About an hour later her Husband posted another message saying that he had found out that she was in hospital and did anyone know what was going on.
I was shitting myself. I spent a whole day in a state of absolute panic not knowing what the hell had happened. I spoke to George, one of the guys who had stayed behind and he had explained what had gone on. Ruby had been all over all of the guys (apparently – I never usually trust this kind of information from men) but her and Alex seemed to have something going on. They had gone into Johnny’s bedroom to do a line of coke and Johnny had burst in thinking that they were having sex on his bed. Johnny was angry. He had wanted Ruby for himself. An argument started in the bedroom between Alex and Johnny, the argument had spilled out on to the street, once they were in the street Johnny punched Alex with such force that he cracked his head on the pavement and started bleeding profusely. Johnny ran before the Police came. Ruby took off her dress and wrapped it around Alex’s head to stem the bleeding and she went with him to the hospital in her bra and knickers. Alex survived. Ruby’s marriage didn’t (they divorced a year later) and Johnny was never seen again. Thank god.